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Tue 22 Oct 2019 09:50 AM

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'Whatever happens with Brexit, we back Britain,' says Saudi Arabia's Al-Jubeir

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said UK investors are 'very welcome in Saudi Arabia'

'Whatever happens with Brexit, we back Britain,' says Saudi Arabia's Al-Jubeir

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab pictured with Adel Al-Jubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in London.  Image: Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia will stand by Britain whatever the outcome of its fraught Brexit negotiations, the kingdom’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has said.

“The UK is a strategic partner and will remain so, whether or not it remains in the EU,” Adel Al-Jubeir said.

Speaking at Chatham House think tank in London on Monday, the minister said Saudi Arabia remains the world’s largest customer of British ‘defensive hardware’. 

“Our relationship will not change because of Brexit; if anything, the UK could end up freer to negotiate better trade deals,” Al-Jubeir said.

The Saudi minister described Britain as an innovative country with “great institutions, creative people, technology and education.”

“UK investors are very welcome in Saudi Arabia. They already have tremendous investments in our country, and vice versa.” he said.

Women's rights

The minister fielded questions on a range of critical topics in a rare public debate.

On the subject of women’s empowerment, he said the kingdom’s reforms are “revolutionary… not just cosmetic”.

Al-Jubeir highlighted the appointment of growing numbers of females to prominent CEO and ministerial roles.

He said the many female women’s rights activists who have been arrested in the kingdom “were breaking the law by cooperating with external actors.”

Al-Jubeir said: “We want to make our country a place where normal men and women live normal lives… We have to continue moving towards this.”

Bringing peace

The minister also claimed that Saudi Arabia is trying to bring “peace” to the world.

Referring to Saudi Arabia’s direct and indirect involvement in bloody conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan, he said: “We are dealing with the challenges in the best manner that we can.

“We are moving towards stabilising Yemen, we have plans for Yemen’s reconstruction. As proven by the five-year-long battle against ISIS and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, wars take time. We are trying to start the process to move Yemen out of its quagmire.

“We want a political settlement in Syria – we want the displaced refugees to go back and for there to be no Iranian influence in Syria.

“Nobody wins a war until the refugees return and the country is reconstructed. You win by stopping bloodshed.”

Al-Jubeir also said the kingdom has an enacted a policy of zero tolerance to extremism.

“After the events of 9/11, we took a serious look at our country and we put in place laws that stop people funding terrorism from Saudi Arabia.”

Iran tensions

 Al-Jubeir slammed Iran for backing the Houthi-led insurgence of Yemen and said Iran is guilty of multiple “murders” and global violence.

“Iran doesn’t abide by international laws. Since its revolution, it has been on a rampage attacking embassies, Saudi diplomats and the list goes on.”

Al-Jubeir claimed Iran had fired more than 260 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia.

“Iran needs to act like a normal country. We tried to extend our hand to them – we would rather be friendly with them. We have not fired a bullet in the direction of Iran; we are on the receiving end of this. They are trying to destabilise Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain.”

Saudi Arabian forces took over control of Yemen’s southern port of Aden on October 14 as part of efforts to end a power struggle between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and southern separatists, sources told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia is currently considering an offer by the Houthis to stop aiming missiles and drones at the kingdom if the coalition halts air strikes on Yemen.

The easing of Saudi-Houthi tensions would pave the way for political talks to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions to the brink of famine in Yemen.